Taking antidepressants during pregnancy may slightly increase a woman’s risk of developing high blood pressure, new data suggests.

Researchers at the Université de Montreal compared 1,216 women who developed pregnancy-induced high blood pressure with or without pre-eclampsia — a life-threatening disorder most often characterized by a rapid rise in blood pressure that can lead to seizure, stroke, multiple organ failure and death of the mother and/or baby — with 12,160 matched controls.

The women had not suffered from high blood pressure before their pregnancies. The study found that 3.7 per cent of those women with hypertension had taken antidepressants compared with 2.5 per cent in the control group.

"These findings highlight the importance of further research evaluating the impact of gestational medication use on the health of the mother," the authors wrote.

Paroxetine — sold commercially as Aropax, Paxil, Seroxat and Sereupin — was singled out as being "associated with risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension," according to the study.

Researchers tracked women between 1997 and 2003, a period when paroxetine was not a Class D medication, as it is now in the U.S. Class D medications may pose a risk to the fetus though the benefits from use in pregnant women may still be acceptable.

In 2005, drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline sponsored a large study that found babies whose mothers took paroxetine in pregnancy had a 1.5-fold increased risk of heart defects. Subsequent studies have found the medication can raise the risk slightly.

According to Health Canada, paroxetine should be used during pregnancy only if the potential benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

The study states that up to 14 per cent of pregnant women take antidepressants.

The study was published Wednesday in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.